The Three EPs 20th Anniversary Edition by The Beta Band – Album Review
By Victoria Holdsworth
To mark the 20th anniversary of its release, The Beta Band announced details of the re-release of their classic debut compilation, The Three EPs. Formed in 1986, the band are arguably one of the most acclaimed bands of the past 20 years, loved by fans, critics and their musical peers alike.
After a couple of early personnel changes, the band’s line-up from the release of The Three EPs until they disbanded in 2004 consisted of Steve Mason (vocals/guitar), Robin Jones (drums), Richard Greentree (bass) and John Maclean (sampler/keyboards).
Innovative and singular, The Beta Band’s unique musical and aesthetic approach to everything they did set them far apart from their musical contemporaries. Together for a relatively short period of time, their three albums, The Beta Band (1999), Hot Shots II (2001) and Heroes To Zeroes (2004), would nonetheless help define them as one of the most exciting and cherished bands of their generation.
Fourteen years after they split, the very existence of The Beta Band feels almost like a strange and incredible fever dream. One that, with these new reissues, can be experienced all over again.
“There’s not a band that really has a legacy like that,” said Steve Mason recently. “It’s beautiful and it’s absolutely untouchable. We were a massive psychedelic rainbow that went screaming across the sky and then crashed into a mountainside. And that’s perfect.”
The Beta Band were a chilled out bunch of electro, trippy-hippy pioneers, with only Beck matching their arms-wide eclectic reach. It is hard to express just how ground-breaking these EPs were, especially in the great discography of life, because you can see the influences that have seeped out of these Scottish trailblazers into other people’s work over the past two decades.
The opening line of “This is the definition of my life” on the track ‘Dry The Rain’, from Champion Versions, perfectly encompass the magical, unassuming presence of The Beta Band. This song in particular, will draw you in with its moody, chilled out vibes. The rest of the album follows suit. As a Beta fan, it’s impossible to choose a favourite on any of these EPs. Such is the uniqueness of everything that they produced, you simply should not attempt it.
The Beta Band have a handy knack of hypnotising you. ‘The House Song’, from The Patty Patty Sound, is a symphony of loops and mind blowing beats, fleshed out with some funk overtures and bongos for good measure.
All three of the instalments complement each other perfectly, but the last of the trio, ‘Los Amigos del Beta Banditos’ is certainly more vocally rich than the first two and without question, more serene musically.
You have to listen to The Beta Band layer by layer to really appreciate them. With some graceful and folksy acoustics, coupled with haunting piano riffs, all interspersed with electronic landscapes of sound, The Beta Band produced imaginative gems that may remind you of much more recent offerings from other artists.
Get on that groovy train, pop any of these tracks on play, and I can guarantee they will have you bobbing around with a smile on your face. Just don’t leave it another 20 years before you listen to them again.